Article

Romanesque Art

Elizabeth Valdez del Álamo

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online December 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0074
Romanesque Art

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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The fully vaulted building and its large-scale sculptural decoration is the great invention of Romanesque art of the 11th and 12th centuries in Europe. Dramatic compositions, often with figures expressively distorted for heightened emotional appeal, are characteristic of the arts of the time. Around the year 1000 ce, after devastating invasions by the Normans, Hungarians, and Muslims, a period of prosperity and rebuilding began in which the arts flowered. The church, as the greatest international power of the time, sponsored the construction of large-scale buildings decorated with sculpture, wall paintings, stained glass, as well as illuminated manuscripts and jeweled furnishings. The sheer inventiveness, liveliness, and profoundly theological basis for Romanesque art has lent itself to rich scholarship on iconography, patronage, pilgrimage, and audience reception as well as on the sociopolitical forces behind artistic production. The term, however, does not denote an international style, as does “Gothic,” with which “Romanesque” overlaps chronologically. Although Gothic can be identified as having specific origins, there is no clear point of origin or any unifying element in so-called Romanesque art. Because the Carolingian 9th century first employed the artistic forms that would characterize Romanesque, many would argue logically that there is a continuum from the 9th century onward. The word itself was invented in the early 19th century to describe pre-Gothic vaulted architecture, deemed to be “in the manner of the Romans” because of its rounded arches and barrel vaults. By extension, “Romanesque” was applied to the newly monumental sculpture that decorated these buildings, and eventually to other media produced in Europe during the 11th and 12th centuries. Ironically, even though the architecture was compared to Classical Rome, the figural arts were often described as “anti-Classical” because they were generally more fantastic than naturalistic. With its schematic renderings, and stylized expressiveness, Romanesque painting and sculpture did not find a modern audience until abstract art emerged in the early 20th century. The following bibliography selects surveys and bibliographies that should lead the user to more focused studies in the field.

Article.  10927 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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